This was the final post from 2009. I will have a couple of more later in the year but this covers the serious and important stuff. I will talk about an American Consulate Guard almost shooting me and a French Monkey later!
July 12, 2009
I have had a few days to recover so I thought I might conclude the trip with a few thanks and thoughts.
I really would like to thank the parents for their contribution. They have worked tirelessly throughout the year. That includes parents from America and Germany. All have been amazing and we could not have done this without them. The teachers that took care of us in Germany were amazing. They fed us and let us work in their classrooms and allowed the students to give presentations in their classes. The relationships that we saw among the teachers of all disciplines were amazing and I really enjoyed sitting in the staff room and talking to teachers. The teachers from Rangeview that allowed students to visit their rooms allowed our students to show the best of Rangeview. Especially those staff members that went out of their way to make the students welcome. I heard stories of kids doing Chemistry experiments, trying out for Poms, and even swimming at a meet on the boy’s swim team. The administrators from both schools deserve thanks for their support of this program. It is one thing to say we are trying to prepare students for the world but it is great for the administrators to back programs that actually put kids into the international market that they must compete. The students will have an understanding of the world that can’t be realized by reading a book. The students themselves deserve thanks for their efforts and all that they have put in for this exchange.
Students will truly need to understand the markets that they are entering. The students that participate in these programs have a decided advantage. These ideas need to be infused into courses. I think that World Languages, Social Studies, and Business have an advantage because we are all naturally pointed toward a broad worldview. As a Business teacher, I think I have been lucky because this easily fits into what I have been teaching and it made me realize just how important what I have been teaching is to students. I was amazed at how similar the concepts I was teaching in Business Law, for example, translated to German and European society. I have a renewed enthusiasm for my curriculum because I have seen how others are doing the same thing worldwide.
Environmental programs that I see daily spewing from the TV and media are very interesting after having visited a country that has strong environmental programs. I said to Waste Management a few years ago to stop the recycling program of picking up at my house. The reason was that they were charging me to do the right thing and they were profiting from the recycling. I was not willing to pay for them to receive more profit from my doing the right thing. I will try some of the recycling programs again but I won’t use Waste Management. Until the government steps in and has some requirements about recycling we will never have a real program. I grew up with the deposit on bottles as a child but until we return to something of this nature we will always have a problem. I saw very few paper products for food service while in Germany and thus, much less trash. The Heimschule Lender has a student body of about 1800 students and they had real plates, silverware, and glasses. At the end of lunch, I asked one of the ladies at the counter how much trash is generated for the entire school for lunch. They had 1 bag from preparation in the kitchen and 2 from the lunchroom for a total of 3 bags for a school of 1800. I also noticed that at the end of the lunch, there were no custodians to clean up. The ladies wiped down the tables and ran a quick broom over the floor and picked up a couple of gum wrappers off of the floor for a school of 1800. I have more thoughts on this but it could go on forever, especially about cars.
I keep hearing in the media and other circles about how far we are falling behind other countries and after traveling to Europe I have some difficulty with this. I am impressed with the programs that some other countries have but it is because they recognize a few facts. First, not everyone is going to go to college. I really want every child to have that opportunity if they and their families choose. I think we have more options than any other country and we need to exploit the choices. The school we worked with was a Gymnasium and college preparatory. Other students are on a track for vocational and have the respect of the community. We should expand the vocational opportunities rather than limit them and make more options for students that do not learn in the traditional way. The students at the Gymnasium are concentrated on going to university and most have the mindset that drives them. Second is that we need the involvement of families and parents. I have always said this and I have heard this for the almost 20 years I have been teaching. I have seen very few programs that work and we see a drive toward charter schools and private schools. They have the single greatest advantage and many seize the opportunity to require parent involvement for attendance at their school. As a teacher, I know that a large majority of the time I will see A and B student parents at conferences and I can tell you why they are A and B students. It is parental involvement. I enjoy the relationship that I see between successful students and their parents. It is the key to that success. Third is that when talking to students in Sasbach, most wanted to visit America and when you talk to them they will tell you that America is still the example and the goal. We have good teachers, good parents, good students, and good schools. We need to have pride in them and see them as others see them. Unfortunately, what we hear are the bad things and we need to take them with a grain of salt and relish our success and continue to get even better.
We are stuck with such a large country that it is easy to be isolationist. We need to go out of our way to give our kids the opportunity to travel and get a taste of the world beyond our schools and homes. The family we stayed with for the last week had a French exchange student for 2 months and their three daughters were leaving as we did for other opportunities. Two daughters were going to France for three weeks, (One later going to Italy), and the other daughter was going to Ireland. This family and others at these schools in Germany embrace the chance to visit other countries and other cultures. They have the decided advantage of being in a much more compact land mass and because of the EU travel is very easy. Unfortunately in Colorado, we have several hundred miles to travel to get to another country but we should look for any opportunity to travel and see the world. To prepare kids for a world economy we need to show them a little of the world it doesn’t come across in a book.
My final thought is about my luck. I am lucky in ways that I can not count. I have a great family that loves to be active and involved. I am lucky to be at a school that treasures these experiences and does what is right for kids. I am lucky to have people to work with like Patrice Dovas-Hudson who continues to work long hours to be everything she can for students and not just give them a curriculum but an experience. I am lucky to live in a country that is a leader in business, education, and opportunity.